Controversial plans to expand the parking lot at Orchard Evangelical Free Church are officially off the table, the Arlington Heights church announced Monday, along with the news that it will be selling eight homes once set for demolition.
The church previously planned to tear down those homes to expand its parking lot but dropped the plan after prolonged opposition by neighbors. A group of neighbors named the Hickory Meadows Community Group attended village board meetings for several months last year encouraging trustees to vote down any plan to tear down homes.
The church "will no longer be seeking to expand its current parking lots at its Arlington Heights campus, and instead will sell all eight homes it owns adjacent to the church," according to a statement released on Monday. The decision was made Sunday night at a church business meeting.
"For many years, we have had challenges providing convenient parking for all who would like to attend The Orchard. Using the property we own for parking would have addressed this challenge," Church Chairman John Clarkson said in the written statement. "However, after discussing the topic in great detail as a congregation and with our neighbors, our board and our members voted to address the challenge in a different way."
"Instead of looking to add more spaces, we will pursue a strategy that safely maximizes the parking we own, the nearby lots to which we have access, and the nearby streets in the neighborhood," the statement continues. "As a result, we will be selling the eight homes we own in the coming months, and will use the proceeds toward advancing the overall ministry of the church."
The houses for sale are one on East Olive Street, one on North Douglas Avenue and six on North Haddow Avenue. The church will be working with Axelson Realty to sell the houses in the next few months.
Tenants who had been renting those homes were asked to leave in May, causing residents to speak out at a contentious community meeting the next month.
In October, Orchard and Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 reached a 10-year agreement to share parking spaces between the church, Thomas Middle School and Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary school, an agreement officials said has been in place informally for years.
In January, the church implemented a parking ministry that helps direct traffic flow on Sunday mornings, and provides shuttle and valet service.
"The efforts to safely maximize current parking have begun and are already having a positive impact," Clarkson said.
Orchard, which also has locations in Itasca, Barrington and Marengo, has been dealing with parking problems at the Arlington Heights location for many years, Clarkson said.
About 1,350 people attend Sunday services each week, with about 200 members parking on neighborhood streets. The proposed expansion would have added 230 parking spots to the lots.